Are There Health Risks to Exercising Outside in Cold Weather
Exercising is, of course, vitally important for good health. However, many people worry that exercising outdoors when it is cold could come with negative health benefits. This is a complex issue with a variety of variables, and we will look at this topic from several different directions.
Taking a Commonsense Approach
First, we should state that working out when it is either dangerously hot or dangerously cold is a bad idea. Risking heat stroke or frostbite just to exercise is a pretty bad idea. Most extreme weather conditions are temporary in nature, and you can simply workout indoors in order to avoid the risk of that extreme weather. This situation does underscore the importance, however, of having a variety of different kind of exercises that you can do both indoors and outdoors.
Always Wear Appropriate Clothing and Stay Hydrated
Regardless of the weather conditions, it makes sense to wear the right kind of clothing to avoid potential weather related health problems. This, of course, includes wearing warm enough clothing as well. Further, don't forget the risk of frostbite from extended exposure to the elements. Just because you are active and moving doesn't mean that there are no potential risks.
If you begin to lose feeling in your fingers, toes, hands or feet, get indoors and do so quickly, as you may be at risk for developing frostbite. According to the Mayo Clinic, if you do get frostbite on your hand and feet, just warm them up in water that is 104F -107.6F degrees and never use direct heat.
One easy way to protect yourself is to wear multiple layers. In this way, you can take off a layer if necessary and still have it later to warm up after your workout has been completed.
Moreover, don't let the cold weather distract you from the very important issue of proper dehydration. Cold weather doesn't mean you can forgo hydration because you are not sweating as much. If you are engaged in demanding physical activity or exercise, then you'll need to rehydrate. Fail to do this, and you will risk serious medical issues.
Be Aware and Stay Alert
Weather conditions can change at any time throughout the year. Yet, during the colder winter months, these changes can have a profound impact on your workout safety. If you feel a sudden plunge in temperature or see rough weather headed in your direction, make your way to shelter!
Staying indoors throughout the entire winter isn't your best option. Some parts of the world are, in fact, cold enough that for certain months you may have little choice but to spend most of your time indoors. But unless you live in one of those areas, it is important to get outside in order to soak in some sunlight and the vitamin D it brings and get some fresh air. While it may be a little harder to get excited and motivated to go outdoors and workout when the weather is rough, there is no doubt that it is still in your best interest.